This is the American Massage Therapy Association’s (AMTA) 17th annual National Massage Therapy Awareness Week. In conjunction with the week, Hendricks Regional Health (HRH) is working to inform the community of how massage therapy can help with healing.
Rochelle Copeland, a massage therapist at HRH who is certified at both the national and state level for massage therapy and body work, said the therapy is useful in every department within the hospital. Copeland is one of three therapists in the department, the others being Deb Rosemeyer and Montrea Kite.
Copeland said a main goal is to make a person comfortable, even before the massage starts.
“When I go to work on somebody in the ICU, my first impulse is, ‘Can we just turn some of these things off,’” Copeland said. “It’s loud and that constant noise on a person (affects them). Massage therapy can change (a person’s experience). You connect with somebody. They don’t feel good, they’re in the ICU, and it’s loud. There’s a lot going on. You have to steady yourself so you can step into that space and just connect with them.”
Aimee Ketterer, marketing and communication specialist for HRH, said some people are unaware that massage therapy is an option.
“A lot of people don’t know that we offer massage therapy, and it’s a complementary service,” she said. “There’s no additional charge for it, which is really unusual. I think most hospitals charge if you call in a massage therapist.”
Copeland said HRH also offers it during labor, which also is unconventional.
“Nobody offers free massage during labor,” she said. “Nobody to my knowledge offers massage therapy, period, during labor.”
In July, Leigh Anne Case, who works as a nurse in the pediatric department at HRH, experienced the effects of massage therapy during her labor, which lasted 22 hours.
“I progressed through my induction all night and then from working here knew what time the massage therapist got here in the morning,” Case said. “As soon as I knew it was around 9 a.m., I asked my nurse to go ahead and call the massage therapist. (Copeland) was with me until I ended up getting an epidural about 1 or 1:30 p.m. that afternoon. She was with me up until that point.”
Case said originally, her goal was to have a natural pregnancy without medication, but she was able to hold out a lot longer with the help of massage therapy.
“With every contraction, she put pressure on my lower back,” she said. “That helped to ease the contractions. My goal was to have a natural delivery without medication and I think I had the mindset that that was going to happen and she definitely eased that for me. It was actually my husband that came in and said, ‘I can’t watch you any longer. You have to get some sort of medication.’ I would not have been able to make it as long as I did without massage therapy.”
Copeland said working on a woman’s back during labor helps ease the process.
“A lot of times when you’re in labor, you have back labor and if you do counter pressure during that contraction, that eases that,” she said. “It doesn’t totally take it away, but it makes it like, ‘OK, I can do this.’ Then in between contractions, we can do softer strokes working on the back, because the back is your nervous system. My motto is ‘rest when you can, work when you have to.’ I try to help them relax in between contractions and then take the point off that intense back labor.”
Copeland added that the massage therapy helps focus a woman on her breathing, to which Case agreed.
“When you’re in labor, I’ve learned, you can become so overwhelmed by the pain that you can’t focus to control your breathing,” Case said. “With the help of massage therapy and with the help of everyone I had around me, I was able to kind of let my pain go and be able to be focused.”
Copeland said it’s about letting a person’s body do what it was meant to do.
“It helps you allow your body to do what it was made to do,” she said. “It is a body function that you haven’t done yet, but it is what you’re made to do. As an adult, you think ‘I’m the master of my body,’ but not that day.”
Massage therapy is also useful after delivery, she said.
“I had a massage both days after delivery, which was really nice,” Case said. “It was a time of the day that you can turn the lights down, because when you have a baby you have people in and out of the room constantly and it was a nice time to at least have that time to relax during the day.”
Gayle McDonald, who works in guest services, was aided by massage therapy after complications from a surgery. She said she was allergic to the medications she got after the surgery, which made her sick.
“I can’t explain how much better I felt even though I was still sick,” McDonald said. “My body just felt better after she gave me the massage. I was able to concentrate and just rest and just let that yucky feeling go away for a minute.”
Copeland said in McDonald’s case, she was once again working on the back.
“Nobody wants to have a surgery, but if you find yourself there, your back is your nervous system,” she said. “If you can work on someone’s back, it’s very calming. Then you can use that energy toward healing, not hurting.”
Copeland said the pain has a lot to do with how a person carries themselves when they aren’t feeling well.
“When people are stressed or in pain, we all tuck our chin and lift our shoulders and in the most extreme case we’ll curl into a fetal position,” she said. “For her, it was neck and shoulders and trying to get her head back again.”
Copeland added that certain places on the body can connect a person to a better time.
“If you can get to that occipital ridge (where the base of the skull meets the spine) … our first human touch is supporting the sacrum (the bone at the base of the spine) and the occipital,” she said. “Anytime you touch somebody there, you take them back to that first connection with being here. When you don’t feel alone, you feel comforted and your needs are taken care of.”
Ketterer said massage therapy is another avenue the hospital takes to provide its patients the best care possible.
“We are a place of healing so this is just another way to help a person heal,” she said. “Like Rochelle says, they heal faster when they’re relaxed and this is a perfect way to facilitate that.”
For more information, call 745-3353 or visit the website at www.hendricksregional.org.